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Tech Etiquette Q&A

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Navigating computers and their problems can be challenging for all of us. At some point, you may need more than a computer Help line and a Genius Bar. This is the time to ask a computer technician to come to your home. In this situation, what are the rules for both client and technician? Here are questions and answers on what to expect when you call for computer help:

How will he or she be dressed? Techs who work for companies like the Geek Squad wear uniforms (black pants and neckties, short-sleeved white shirts) and drive company cars with the company logo, but many techs work for themselves. Freelancers usually dress casually, so don't be offended if you see a backpack and tennis shoes. These people are on the go all day and need to be comfortable.

What if I need to reschedule? As with any other appointment, if you need to reschedule, be courteous and do so ahead of time, preferably at least twenty-four hours ahead of the appointment. The computer technician should do the same if possible.

How should I address the tech (and vice versa)?
In most settings, expect to be on a first-name basis with your technician.

Should the tech accept or make phone calls? A computer tech should not take cell phone calls during an appointment, although he or she may check messages if a short break is otherwise necessary.

What about making small talk? Small talk is an icebreaker and perfectly acceptable between client and tech, but it should be kept to a minimum so the tech can do the necessary work.

What about smoking, eating, and using the bathroom? Techs should smoke outside only if a short break (ten to fifteen minutes) is otherwise needed during an extended visit. Clients may or may not offer the tech water or something else to drink, but there is no need to offer food. Techs should be allowed the use of a bathroom, especially if they will be at your home for an extended period of time.

What's the rule about privacy?
Although a client can expect more informal behavior from a tech making a home visit, especially if he or she is a freelancer, this is still a business relationship, and both client and tech should avoid asking personal questions or taking time away from the computer to talk about personal subjects. Remember: A computer tech charges by the hour, so his or her visit should be all about the computer! Vladimir Galant, owner of www.911pchelp.net, a 10 year computer service operation for small businesses, agrees. "It's our job to determine the tech do's and don'ts during the visit based on years of practical experience and common sense. But it also depends on the client. Some are more demanding, while others can make a sometimes-difficult repair situation easy."

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder of The AML Group (www.AMLGroup.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Cornell University and Microsoft to Nordstrom and KPMG. She has been quoted by The Sunday Times, InStyle magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She has appeared on various radio and television stations, such as ABC, CBS, and Fox News. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.

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